Over Forty Exercise Basics
Article by Doug Setter, BSc
I hate to break it to anyone approaching or passing the big 4-0, but the bad news is: you cannot train like a 20 year old to get a flat stomach. The good news is: you don’t have to train like a 20 year old to get a flat stomach.
In your late teens and twenties, your body was high in fat-burning growth hormone, your stress was fairly low and you could often rely on the Mom and Dad Hotel for good meals and financial help. Fast forward 20 years and you find a few changes:
* Slower recovery; * Higher stress; * Slower metabolism; * Less time for training; and * Accumulated injuries and indulgences.
It is kind of like trying to get better mileage out of an older car. You can do it. But, you have to be smart about it. In the case of your body and health, you have to be smart about your exercise, diet and behaviour.
Exercise for the plus-40 crowd should focus on posture and structure for optimum function and strength. You cannot be super strong and healthy with a sunken chest, slouched shoulders and protruding gut. You might possess some “old man strength” for a short period of time, but your energy and endurance will be lacking.
Try pulling your neck back into your collar, roll your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You will note that your stomach naturally draws inward when your body is aligned. This is why the old soldier can appear fitter than the younger, but slouching recruit.
Obviously, when the body is aligned, you feel and breathe better. Your digestion improves and you probably do not tire as easily. So, even without burning a whole lot of calories, your weight will distribute over your body, improving your ease of movement and appearance. Posture is very important in martial arts and yoga. And you see lots more older people in those areas than say, aerobic dance.
Here is a secret to a flatter gut after forty: Always include some posture and back exercises when you train your abdominals. For starters, practice the one-legged seated stretch and standing lunge. The one-legged stretch is done by sitting on a mat with one leg straight and the opposite leg tucked in with your foot near your groin. Slowly reach your chin and chest towards your foot. Relax, take a deep breath and exhale as you stretch. Stretching one leg at a time, reduces the chance of back strain. Spend about 30 seconds per leg. Some professionals stretch for 10 minutes in each position. This stretches the hamstrings which get shortened from excessive sitting.
Avoid bouncing, jerking motions and/or reaching with your forehead as these popular movements can strain your upper and lower back.
The standing lunge is like a karate stance or fencers lunge. Stand with one leg forward with the knee bent and the other leg straight behind you. Keep the front knee above your ankle. Hold for 30 seconds and change. This movement stretches the hip flexors, which also tighten from excessive standing and sitting.
The other problem posture area is the upper back. Too much time behind the steering wheel or computer let these muscles slacken from lack of use. Train yourself to get out of the car or desk chair and move around at least every hour. Torso raises, the Pilates Breast Stroke, the yoga cobra, swimming, classical dance and martial arts all strengthen this area.
Next to posture, you must use peak effort exercises. Cardiovascular or endurance exercises are great for the heart and lungs. But peak effort exercises like isometrics, weight lifting and certain body weight exercises will boost your body’s growth hormone and bone density. Strength training is more anti-ageing than endurance exercise, though both are important. This is to say that performing squats (with or without weights), over-head presses, chin ups, body weight exercises and curls 2 to 4 times per week will slow down ageing better than jogging every day.
While long endurance sessions will burn more calories during the exercise, strength exercises will continue to burn fat AFTER the exercise. After a strength training session, your muscles are rebuilding while burning fat. Even while you are at home watching television, sleeping, etc. You can actually exercise less and get more benefits. I found this out decades ago when I ran twice a week and lifted weight twice a week. Within a couple of months, I was running a faster 1.5 mile run than the guys who ran 3 miles every day. Strength training, nutrition and rest days gave me superior performance than the guys who just plodded along every day at the same pace.
As for getting a flat stomach: here is a routine that I have used in my forties and fifties ONLY ONCE A WEEK.
1. First, work the upper back. Keeping the hips on the floor, raise your torso off of the mat. Your head should be kept straight so that you are looking forward approximately one foot. (Not shown.)
2. First, work the obliques. As these are the body’s stabilizers, they will tend to assist the other abdominal groups during an abdominal workout. You will want to tire them out so that the other abdominal groups get more work. Side-to-side movements, such as leg-overs will work this area.
3. Next, work the lower abdominals. As body builders, athletes and formerly pregnant women can tell you, this is a soft area of the body that is difficult to strengthen. Movements such as leg raises will work this area. Again, you want this area pre-fatigued so that you can really work the next stage.
4. Now work the crunch for the upper abdominals. With the other abdominal groups already fatigued, the upper abdominals have to take on most of the workload. This is like most of a rowing team suddenly stopping and leaving two members to keep rowing. The upper abdominals get far more work than if they were cruising along with the rest of the abdominal “crew”.
No more than 3 seconds rest between exercises. Move from one to the next exercise and then rest for one minute after the crunches. Then repeat for 3 sets of the whole sequence. Start with 5 repetitions and go up to 30. It is a butt-kicker but produces awesome results in about 5 sessions.
About the Author
Doug Setter, BSc. (Nutrition)is a former paratrooper and author of Stomach Flattening and Reduce Your Alcohol Craving. He held a welterweight kick-boxing title at age 40. He trains 40+ clients in turning back the clock. His website is http://www.2ndwindbodyscience.com